Basel School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule)

The further development of the International Typographic Style occurred in two cities, Basel and Zurich, located 70 kilometers (about 50 miles) apart in northern Switzerland. Fifteen-year-old Emil Ruder (1914–70) began a four-year compositor’s apprenticeship in 1929 and attended the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts when he was in his late twenties. In 1947 Ruder joined the faculty of the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule (Basel School of Design) as the typography instructor and called upon his students to strike the correct balance between form and function. He taught that type loses its purpose when it loses its communicative meaning; therefore, legibility and readability are dominant concerns. His classroom projects developed sensitivity to negative or unprinted spaces, including the spaces between and inside letterforms. Ruder advocated systematic overall design and the use of a grid structure to bring all elements—typography, photography, illustration, diagrams, and charts—into harmony with each other while allowing for design variety. Problems of unifying type and image were addressed.

More than any other designer, Ruder realized the implications of Univers and the creative potential unleashed by the unity of proportion, because the consistent baseline and x-height allowed the mixing of all twenty-one typefaces. Ruder and his students exhaustively explored the contrasts, textures, and scale possibilities of the new face in both commissioned and experimental work. His methodology of typographic design and education was presented in his 1967 book Typography: A Manual of Design, which had a worldwide influence.

Basel School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule)

Basel School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule)

Basel School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule)

Basel School of Design (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule)


In 1947 Armin Hofmann (b. 1920) began teaching graphic design at the Basel School of Design, after completing his education in Zurich and working as a staff designer for several studios. Together with Emil Ruder, he developed an educational model linked to the elementary design principles of the Vorkurs established in 1908. This curriculum was the decisive one for the 1950s and was widely used in the pharmaceutical industry by former students such as Karl Gerstner (b. 1930), the founder of the GGK agency. Also in 1947, Hofmann opened a design studio in collaboration with his wife, Dorothea. Hofmann applied deep aesthetic values and an understanding of form to both teaching and designing. As time passed, he evolved a design philosophy based on the elemental graphic-form language of point, line, and plane, replacing traditional pictorial ideas with a modernist aesthetic. In his work and in his teaching, Hofmann continues to seek a dynamic harmony, where all the parts of a design are unified. He sees the relationship of contrasting elements as the means of invigorating visual design. These contrasts include light to dark, curved lines to straight lines, form to counterform, soft to hard, and dynamic to static, with resolution achieved when the designer brings the total into an absolute harmony.

Hofmann works in diverse areas, designing posters, advertisements, and logos, as well as other materials . In 1965 Hofmann published Graphic Design Manual, a book that presents his application of elemental design principles to graphic design.

2017 History of Graphic Design

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.